Unorganized territory

Unorganized territory

An unorganized territory is a region of land, generally with less self-governmental powers than other regions, controlled by a specific government. The term has several denotations depending on the exact usage and context.

United States

U.S. Census Bureau

Unorganized territories, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, occur in 10 minor civil division (MCD) states (Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota) where portions of counties are not included in any legally established MCD or independent incorporated place. The U.S. Census Bureau recognizes such separate pieces of territory as one or more separate county subdivisions for statistical purposes. It assigns each unorganized territory a descriptive name, followed by the designation "unorganized territory." Unorganized territories were first used for statistical purposes in conjunction with the 1960 census. []

At the 2000 census there were 305 of these territories within the United States. Their total land area was 221,164.87 km² (85,392.23 sq mi), or larger than the entire state of Idaho. There was a total population of 247,331 on these lands. South Dakota has the most unorganized territories, 102, as well as the largest amount of land under that status, 103,042.114 km² (39,784.78 sq mi), or 52.428 percent of the state's land area. North Dakota follows with 86 territories, 52,727.67 km² (20,358.27 sq mi), or 29.515 percent of its land area. Maine is next with 36 territories, 36,395.73 km² (14.052.47 sq mi), or 45.534 percent of its land area. Minnesota has 71 territories, 27,329.68 km² (10,552.05 sq mi), or 13.255 percent of its land area. The other states have very insignificant amounts of unorganized territory. However, the unorganized territory with the largest population is Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a United States Marine Corps base with a census population of 34,452 inhabitants.

United States territory

An unorganized territory is also a United States territory for which the United States Congress has not enacted an organic act. In this sense, unorganized territories are lands possessed by the federal U.S. government but which are not within any of the states of the Union and have not been "organized" into self-governing units. Currently, all federal unorganized territory is considered to be an Insular area, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. American Samoa is technically unorganized, in that Congress has not passed an organic act, but is self-governing under terms of a constitution last revised in 1967. As of 2006, Palmyra Atoll is the only unorganized incorporated U.S. territory.Historically, Unorganized Territory was a name used by the United States government to refer to the enormous territory in the Great Plains before it was organized into smaller territories. The area was a part of the Louisiana Territory until 1812 and the Missouri Territory until 1821. In 1821 the Missouri Compromise carved the State of Missouri out of the territory, and the rest of the area became unorganized. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 divided the area into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories.

In modern parlance, such territory would be considered incorporated territory (i.e., part of the United States proper), yet not organized territory. However, the distinction between incorporated and non-incorporated territory did not arise until the territorial acquisitions following the Spanish-American War in 1898.


Unorganized territories also exist in certain regions of Canada, such as Northern Ontario where there is no region-wide level of government. In Quebec, territory not within the border of a municipality of some sort is unorganized territory.

ee also

*Organized territory
*Incorporated territory
*Types of municipalities in Quebec


* [ Unorganized Territory County Subdivisions] United States Census Bureau

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